DAVID BROWN AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 2641

Council Meeting: JANUARY 2018

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Columnists
Discrimination
Unfair Coverage

Overview

David Brown complains about an article published on the Stuff website on November 23, 2017. He is of the view that the article breaches Press Council Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) and also raises points that appear to involve Principle 7 (discrimination and diversity)

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.

Background

On November 17, 2017, Stuff published an article by Michelle Duff criticising Sky Television’s decision to employ Tony Veitch to front a new show and commenting on Mr Veitch’s subsequent withdrawal. The article was headed “Opinion” and its main theme was the unsuitability of Mr Veitch for the position in view of his conviction for assaulting his partner and his subsequent behaviour.

The Complaint

Mr Brown complains that the article is unfair and prejudicial to Mr Veitch’s right to pursue his career without interference. He says it “fails properly to address the other side of the story omits truth’s [sic] that are considered irrelevant due to the conviction”.He further complains that Stuff is discriminating against Mr Veitch’s employment with Sky.

In general, Mr Brown says that Mr Veitch has served his sentence and “should be given the grace to make good on his past mistakes.”

The Response

The editor of Stuff, Patrick Crewdson, responded to the complainant, saying that Ms Duff’s article was clearly labelled as opinion and expressed her honestly held opinion that Mr Veitch’s history of domestic violence made him an unsuitable candidate for a prominent broadcasting job and that Sky TV showed poor judgement in hiring him.

Mr Crewdson says Mr Brown has not identified any inaccuracies in the article, nor has he specified (other than by noting a possible alternative explanation of events) the “truths” that he says were omitted.He says Mr Brown has misconstrued the statutory right not to be discriminated against on specified grounds.

In general. Mr Crewdson submits that Ms Duff is entitled to hold and express a view on Mr Veitch and that to find otherwise would be an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression.

The Decision

There is no doubt that the article in question is an opinion piece and is clearly marked as such.Principle 1 of the Press Council principles does not generally apply to opinion pieces, though material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate (Principle 5).

Mr Brown does not suggest that any of Ms Duff’s facts are inaccurate although he does suggest that there are relevant facts that she does not mention.However an opinion piece is not required to cover all the facts, or to be balanced, or even to be fair.Some readers may consider published opinions to be extreme, unacceptable or even offensive, but an opinion piece may select the facts it considers important and its balance and fairness are matters for the individual reader to determine.

Mr Brown suggests that the opinion is discriminatory, but his view appears to be based on a misunderstanding of the relevant principle (Principle 7). This principle applies to the discussion of gender, religion, age, race and similar topics and permits reporting and the expression of opinion on them provided there is no gratuitous emphasis.It does not apply to opinion about behaviour that may affect a person’s employment prospects.

Decision

The complaint is not upheld

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, John Roughan, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.